Steve Preddy and Martyn Hall, a British gay couple, were discriminated against when the Bulls, a Christian couple, refused to honour their bed and breakfast booking. This week, the UK Supreme Court in London found this discrimination to be unlawful. It is a ruling that highlights how equality laws outlaw eccentric behaviours.
A gay couple nowadays would have to search far and wide to find hoteliers who would turn down their custom. Or, as in Preddy and Hall’s case, they would have to be exceedingly unlucky. Had they booked online, they would have seen the Bulls’ booking form that explained politely how ‘we have a few rules, but please note, that out of a deep regard for marriage we prefer to let double accommodation to heterosexual married couples only – thank you’.
The apologetic tone of the Bulls’ booking form may have betrayed their recognition that traditional Christian views on sex are not popular. Of the small and diminishing number of individuals who wouldn’t nowadays treat gays equally, many are motivated, like the Bulls, by a traditional Christian view. Legal discrimination against gays, practised by the state, is a thing of the past.
Yet, as the systematic unequal treatment of gays has ended, so another problem has grown. One pernicious social force has been replaced by another: the willingness of the state to outlaw minority or eccentric views and behaviours. State-backed oppression has yielded to state-backed intolerance.
The Bulls have been hauled before the courts and told they can no longer practise what they preach. To deny a couple the right to make a living in a manner consistent with their Christian values is draconian. The Bulls’ fate is similar to that of Lillian Ladele, an Islington marriage registrar, and Gary McFarlane, a Relate counsellor, who were both sacked after declining to provide their professional services to lesbians and gays. Equality laws did for them all.